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Sunday, 22 September 2013


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Some of us find joy in ugliness.

So, Mike, you've reached enlightenment? :-)
Thanks for reminding us that. We tend to forget.

Mike: Wow! Now that's what I call perfect prose and so descriptive too. I almost feel as though I was riding shotgun in your truck. Now all I crave is a picture or two complete the imagery!

Tony Mclean (UK)

Well now, that was nice. Thank you Mike. Glad the world is treating you to moments of beauty every now and again.

"Hey Babe,
Don't the air taste sweet?"
Marc Cohn

"I've just been struck by the realization that we live in a beautiful world."

Indeed we do Mike and that is the core of my photography. I know other photographers photograph what's wrong to raise awareness but it is my belief that many in the world are just as unaware of the beauty, just as much in need of the realization you expressed. Further, I believe that the realization that it is a beautiful world is more important than focus on poverty, disease and the degradation of our planet because it is the realization of the world's inherent beauty that gives us the courage and hope to work toward work toward a better world rather than giving up in despair.

Michael -

We whose work and subject matter you recently dismissed as "naturey", have always known this; it's why we do what we do.

Islamic terrorism, bent politicians, bank crashes, greedy corporations - whatever - the physical world is still and always, beautiful, and we photograph it to celebrate that fact and to put the evidence in front of as many people as we can.

Agnostic, Mike? Not so sure. Pantheistic it seems.

Read this - if you want of course:

Winter Journey in the Harz (1777)

As the hawk aloft
On heavy daybreak cloud
Searching for prey,
May my song hover.

For a god has
duly to each
His path prefixed,
And the fortunate man
Runs fast and joyfully
To his journey's end;
But he whose heart
Misfortune constricted
Struggles in vain
To break from the bonds
Of the brazen thread
Which the shears, so bitter still,
Cut once alone.

Into grisly thickets
The rough beasts run,
And with the sparrows
The rich long since have
Sunk in their swamps.

Easy it is to follow that car
Which Fortune steers,
Like the leisurely troop that rides
The find highroads
Behind the array of the Prince.

But who is it stands aloof?
His path is lost in the brake,
Behind hime the shrubs
Close and he's gone,
Grass grows straight again,
The emptiness swallows him.

O who shall heal his agony then
In whom each balm turned poison,
Who drank hatred of man
From the very fullness of love?
First held now holding in contempt,
In secret he consumes
His own particular good
In selfhood unsated.

If in your book of songs
Father of love, there sounds
One note his ear can hear,
Refresh with it then his heart!
Open his clouded gaze
To the thousand fountainheads
About him as he thirsts
In the desert!

You who give joys that are manifold,
To each his overflowing share,
Bless the companions that hunt
On the spoor of the beasts
With young exuberance
Of glad desire to kill,
Tardy averngers of outrage
For so long repelled in vain
By the cudgeling countryman.

But hide the solitary man
In your sheer gold cloud!
Till roses flower again
Surround with winter-green
The moistened hair,
O love, of your poet!

With your lantern glowing
You light his way
Over the fords by night,
On impassable tracks
Through the void countryside;
With daybreak thousand-hued
Into his heart you laugh;
With the mordant storm
You bear him aloft;
Winter streams plunge from the crag
Into his songs,
And his altar of sweetest thanks

Is the snow-hung brow
Of the terrible peak
People in their imaginings crowned
With spirit dances.

You stand with heart unplumbed
Mysteriously revealed
Above the marveling world
And you look from clouds
On the kingdoms and magnificence
Which from your brothers' veins beside you
With streams you water.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Selected Poems, Christopher Middleton (Ed.)
"Harzreise im Winter" (A Winter Journey in the Harz")
translated by Christopher Middleton,
Suhrkamp/Insel Publishers, Boston, 1983, pp. 66-71

[Thank you for that, Jean-Louis. However, I assure you, I am not a pantheist [s]. --Mike]

I don't dispute that there are many scenes of beauty, but it's hardly a beautiful world. See Devo's 'Beautiful World':


Think of Syria, Somalia, the cannibalism in North Korea, the repression by the West's 'allies' in the Arab states.

Sorry to be a wet blanket, but the world as a whole is awful, although there is much that is beautiful.


Gratitude is good. Very good. In fact, I think that the single biggest determinant of a person's level of happiness--regardless of their age or circumstances--is how grateful they are. So thanks for this post....

And to those in the northern hemisphere Happy Fall; and those in the southern hemisphere Happy Spring! And to those folks who live along the equator, well, I am sorry you don't get four seasons; but knowing that each day will bring almost equal day and equal night must have some advantage!

How uplifting, also, to see a reference of sorts to dear old, oft over-looked, Albert Renger-Patzsch. Gotta love him!!


When inside, my world is small and the other one comes to me through a wire.

When outside, there is only one world and it is big and it is diverse and wide ranging and it is beautiful. And it is mine.

I'm going to walk the dog now.

Our planet, and certainly the universe, must be brimming with perceptual "beauty". Be grateful that, deep in middle-age, your cognitive senses and psyche can still recognize it. Lots of people your age live in a sad world of continuous gray.

Hey, Mike,
Being agnostic does not preclude being spiritual, and your beautiful description reflects that innate spirituality.

My wife and I have repeatedly marveled at the lush summer we have just experienced in SE PA. I cannot recall such a year in my 70+ years. We celebrated summer's end and autumn's birth this evening with a (small) bonfire.

Ignore the naysayers, revel in the glories this world can offer.

(Me? Agnostic pantheist)

I may not know whom to address the envelope to, but the last few days have me composing a thank you letter to _someone_. I finally got a chance to hang out in glorious weather with my family, found a creepy-crazy bug with my son, taught a roomful of Tiger Cubs and danced with my daughter in tall meadow grass. (even took pictures!)

There are horrible things on this earth, but the fact that nature's default setting is 'gorgeous' has got to meant something, right?

do you take a camera with you most of the time?

[Hi joanlvh, not on walks with the dog--she stops at all the wrong places. And my readers don't let me take pictures from the car any more. --Mike]

Weather is good.

"This has just been the most beautiful, dramatic spring and summer I've ever experienced in Wisconsin."

I wonder how much of that experience of beauty is related to our ability to receive it. I'd submit that the beauty is always there - the gift is our ability to recognize it. Definitely something to thankful for.

And Mike, during these moments of revalation;
where was your your capture the image at the
time of the moment device?

I know, i know, always never there in hand to record; been there, missed the opportunity and then figured, there shall be other times, other seasons, other worlds and yes other walks with Lulu.

Why am I the first to say "Pics or it didn't happen"?


But hey, Mike, where are the photos ?!

Amen to that.

> And when the earth is beautiful, it's heaven.

To someone from Jupiter, it would be hell.

Le Monde est une chienlit. (Pardon my French.)

This reminds me of a morning a dozen years ago. I was chairing an information systems seminar in North Florida, and staying in hotel on the beach.

I got up just before dawn and went for a long walk on the beach to watch the sun come up. The wind was blowing, and the only things to be heard were the surf, the sea birds, and the sound of my feet walking on the sand.

The beauty of the sky and sea was nearly overwhelming; I felt as I was walking in a vast cathedral of beauty. My atheism was shaken to its core - how could such vast majesty have happened by chance?

After my long walk, I welcomed other attendees to the first session with a renewed sense of the world, which lasted until later that morning of September 11th, 2001.


Forgive the quality of the pictures - they were shot with my first ever digital camera, an Olympus DL360 1.3 mb P&S.

Jack Hufnagel

Regarding Aluns comment, far above somewhere... You are talking about actions by humans, not about the physical World. Not the same thing.

"And my readers don't let me take pictures from the car any more. --Mike"
now I am curious, how do we readers stop you, fyi, i take pics from my car all the time.

[Well, I posted a picture in the "My Pool Lesson with Jerry Briesath" post--taken from the MOVING car--that many readers excoriated me for, feeling it was an unsafe practice. Which it probably is. I then wrote this followup:


But I learned my lesson...never ADMIT to taking pictures from a moving car! --Mike]

Thanks for reminding me I shouldn't spend so much time stuck in an office.

Whether one prays or not, the essential teaching is gratitude. Gratitude is essential to being fully alive.

Mike Johnston wrote:
> But I learned my lesson...never ADMIT to taking pictures from a moving car!

Now that it's clear that we live in an insecure, surveillance society where e.g. various governmental agencies can trawl for information and get you on a legal technicality, here are the rules:

Rule one: Do not speak.

Rule two: If you can't abide by rule one, then don't write.

Rule three: If you can't abide by rule two, then don't be surprised.

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